[Hpn] Six arrested in King Co., WA protesting late shelter opening

chance martin streetsheet@sf-homeless-coalition.org
Mon, 15 Oct 2001 10:48:28 -0700


The Seattle Times
Sunday, October 14, 2001, 12:00 a.m. Pacific

Six arrested at county building protesting late shelter opening

By Gina Kim 
Seattle Times staff reporter

Six people, three of them homeless, were arrested late Friday after they
moved off a sidewalk and onto the plaza of the King County Administration
Building, just three days before the building is scheduled to open a 50-bed
shelter. 

All are on the staff of SHARE, a homeless-advocacy group. They had been
camping in front of the building to protest the county's delay in opening
its winter shelter in the building's lobby. In past years, the shelter has
opened at the beginning of October. This year the county announced on Oct. 1
a mid-October opening.

The late opening is due to the milder weather as well as the county's search
for a professionally managed provider to run the program, said Elaine Kraft,
spokeswoman for King County Executive Ron Sims.

The county has contracted with the Salvation Army to run the shelter; SHARE
managed it in the past.

"To refuse to let people stay at least partially dry on a wet night when
temperatures got down to 50 was just wrong," said Anitra Freeman, president
of SHARE's board of directors and one of the people arrested.

An average of 40 people have been sleeping at the building each night since
Oct. 1, Freeman said. They slept in the plaza area on the first night, but
returned the next day to find the area cordoned off. They have since slept
on the sidewalk. 

"We began sleeping down there on the sidewalk and giving mats and blankets
to folks," Freeman said. "We're helping them at least have a place to have
some comfort and to be safe as a group until the shelter did open."

After the rain set in Friday, the group moved into the plaza area. Most
dispersed when asked to leave, but Seattle police arrested six for criminal
trespass when they refused. While two women were released from the King
County Jail on their own recognizance yesterday morning, four men will
appear in court today, according to the Seattle Municipal Court.

"They're more than welcome to stay outside on the sidewalks," Kraft said.
"But we need to have that (plaza) area clear in case anyone should need
access to it and we have marked it as such. Unfortunately, it had to be
enforced." 

Freeman said there are 6,000 people homeless in Seattle each night, but
fewer than 3,000 shelter beds. "There's a lot of need."

Gina Kim can be reached at 206-464-2761 or gkim@seattletimes.com

Copyright  2001 The Seattle Times Company

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